2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion 6-speed

The words “Q-Ship” and “Sleeper” get tossed around a lot when describing the super-performing sedans, coupes and wagons from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW – but truth be told, virtually any enthusiast and most non-enthusiasts can spot a high performance model a mile away. We have to go really pretty far back to find examples that were true sleepers – models where it was only the number of tail pipes, subtly wider wheels, or maybe one single badge that hinted at their greater performance. There were no extra gills, bulges, flared fenders, red trim, flashy colored brake calipers and 22″ wheels with 375 section tires. For models like the 450SEL 6.9, you had to know what you were looking at to fully appreciate the performance. But even as we got towards the E28 M5, manufacturers were slapping badges, lowered suspensions, spoilers and special trim to help set their client’s substantial investments apart. In the vein of the 450SEL 6.9, though, Volkswagen launched a discrete performance sedan – a true sleeper – in the Passat W8.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion on eBay

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2013 Volkswagen CC VR6 4Motion Executive

Over the past year, there’s been quite a bit of buzz about the Volkswagen Arteon. These reviews tend to focus around two main points; that the Arteon is quite nice, and that the Arteon is quite expensive – at least, for a Volkswagen. The model starts at $35,000 and if you add a few options it’s not hard to crest $40,000. I did manage to find a SEL 4Motion under $40,000 but it has few options. The 2.0T is rated at 268 horsepower in base form, and you can select front- or all-wheel drive variants and a ton of tech as the price climbs, but initially they’ll all be offered only with an 8-speed ZF automatic. Although outwardly it looks a lot like an Audi A7, and indeed features the same hatchback configuration, like the previous few Passats and Passat CC it is based on the Golf MQB platform.

All this got me to thinking; is it really that radical a departure from the last CC?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2013 Volkswagen CC VR6 4Motion Executive on eBay

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Budget Bentley: 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton W12

Walk into a Volkswagen dealership in the early 2000s, and it was clear that the brand had taken the people’s car upmarket. The Mk.4 Golf/Jetta looked decidedly more modern than the Mk.3 holdovers from 1998. The 2001 introduction of the B5.5 Passat splashed chrome, leather and wood all over the mid-range sedans and wagons and offered exotic-sounding performance from the wild optional W8. But it was this car that really signaled VW was operating on a different plane; not only did they bring over the D1 platform Phaeton, but with it they brought the monstrous 6.0 W12.

While to many the Phaeton looked like a reskin of the D3 Audi A8 and indeed the two did share some componentry, the D1 platform was actually shared with VAG’s other subsidiary Bentley. Both the Continental GT and later Flying Spur shared the infrastructure, meaning the Phaeton enjoyed extreme levels of refinement, ride quality and fit/finish that weren’t typically associated with “the people’s car”. While all the luxury added up to north of 5,000 lbs without passengers and it lacked the twin turbochargers the Bentley boys got, the Phaeton W12 was still the fastest car in the VW showroom in 2004. With 420 horsepower driving all four wheels, the Phaeton was capable of effortless and nearly silent 5.5 second 0-60 runs and could break 200 mph unrestricted.

While it sounds great, there were two drawbacks. One was that to nearly everyone your Phaeton looked just like my Passat. And while a loaded W8 4 Motion Variant Passat was really, really expensive, you and your significant other could drive out of your local dealer with not one, but TWO fully loaded Passats for the price of just one W12 Phaeton. It’s no surprise that the U.S. market wasn’t ready for a $90,000 Volkswagen, and a scant 482 were sold here before the model was yanked. But today, that means you can get these market-busting models for pennies on the dollar:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton W12 on eBay

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Unicorn Fight! 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed v. 2008 Audi A4 2.0T quattro Avant S-Line Titanium Package 6-speed

Fortunately for its seller but unfortunate if you actually were interested in it, the 2.7T-swapped Audi B6 A4 Ultrasport Avant ‘Unicorn Killer’ I wrote up a few weeks ago sold just before I went to press. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other interesting options out there, and I found two in direct competition (at least, ostensibly) with one another on my local Craigslist.

Here, we have two all-wheel drive wagons from VAG. Both are complicated. Both are reasonably quick. Both have mindbogglingly long names. Both have 6-speed manuals, both originally had MSRPs north of $40,000 and both, predictably, are quite rare to find. But while the mileage on the two is different, their asking prices are within a hundred dollars. So which would you take?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed on Providence Craigslist

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2000 Volkswagen Bora Variant 2.8 V6 4Motion Highline

Continuing on my theme of rare European treats, here’s a Jetta you don’t see every day. While the market may have seemed fairly saturated by the 2000s with all-wheel drive wagons – including Volkswagen’s own Passat Variant 4Motion – that didn’t stop VW from bringing a new generation of small wheel drive five-doors to customers. Of course, there had been a Mk.3 Golf Variant Syncro available with the VR6 previously – I looked at one a few years ago:

4WD Week: 1996 Volkswagen Golf Variant 2.9 VR6 Syncro

The Syncro name was dropped for the 4th generation and fell in line with the new 4Motion branding shared with the Passat. However, while the Passat’s longitudinal drivetrain borrowed Audi’s B5 quattro system, the Mk.4 was of course transverse. As a result, the Mk.4’s Haldex system was shared with the Audi A3 and TT. The Golf Variant was also renamed the Bora Variant, and thus was born today’s car. Engine revisions mid-run led to this model: the 2.8 V6 4Motion Highline. While the car is branded “V6” and if you open the engine bay it even says “V6” on the beauty cover, it was in fact a 24 valve variant of the 2.8 liter narrow-angle VR6. Dubbed the BDF and rated at 201 horsepower, that made this a little all-wheel drive pocket rocket 5-door, and just like the R32 we saw it could be mated to a manual transmission:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2000 Volkswagen Bora Variant 2.8 V6 4Motion Highline at Autoleitner

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2004 Volkswagen Golf R32

The Mk.4 GTI lineup got progressively better through the early 2000s and culminated with the U.S. finally getting the Super Golf. All-wheel drive was nothing new to the hatchbacks, as they’d had it in the normal run starting in 1986 and it was offered pretty much straight until today. But for U.S. customers, models like the Golf Rallye, Golf Limited and VR6 Syncro models were forbidden fruit until the fourth generation of Golfs.

In late 2003, the model with so much promise was finally added to the U.S. lineup. The underpinnings were shared with the Audi TT, which meant a transverse engine utilizing a Haldex hydraulic controller to drive the rear wheels. Power came from a double-overhead cam 24 valve narrow-angle VR6. Displacing 3189 cubic centimeters, it generated 237 horsepower and 236 lb.ft of torque and for the first generation it was mated solely to a 6-speed manual transmission. Outwardly there were a few clues that it was more potent than yesterday’s 20th Anniversary GTI; revised front and rear bumper covers with dual exhaust and gaping intakes. The wheels were the same 18″ OZ-made Aristo wheels from the 20th, but the calipers were painted blue and grasped rotors a full 1.3 inches larger than the GTI. As with the signature model for performance in the hot hatch category, the R32 received larger anti-roll bars and 1BE sport suspension, good for a 1″ drop. Tires were meaty 225-40-18 ZR-rated rubber. All of these things helped to keep the weight of the R32 in check, and there was plenty of that to manage. The addition of heavier-duty running gear, two more cylinders and all-wheel drive meant that the R weighed in a full 3,350 lbs – about two full-sized adults north of a GTI. It was more powerful, but it wasn’t really much quicker in a straight line. Of course, it had great torque and even greater noise, along with the mystique of being the head honcho around the VW scene. Consequently, the R32 has maintained near-cult status since new and examples still demand a serious premium over the rest of their contemporaries from Volkswagen:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Golf R32 on eBay

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Roll the dice? 2004 Volkswagen R32 with 399,767 miles

The R32 is one of my favorite Volkswagens — at least among the ones we actually got in America. A great sounding 3.2 liter VR6, 6-speed manual transmission, 4motion all-wheel drive, Königseats, a different yet conservative body kit, 18 inch OZ Aristo wheels all finished off in some special colors. Yes, it was still a MK4 at heart and the interior smelled like crayons but at least you could hit the accelerator pedal in first gear and not worry about spinning the front wheels uncontrollably. Now that these cars are heading towards their teenage years, the really nice ones are holding their value quite well but the ones that were driven hard and put away wet? Well, again, this is still a MK4 so you can imagine what kind of state they are in. So when I saw this Deep Blue Metallic for sale with almost 400,000 miles on it I had to take a closer look.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen R32 on Autotrader

Year: 2004
Model: R32
Engine: 3.2 liter VR6
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Mileage: 399,767 mi
Price: $5,900

This 1 owner no accident 2004 Golf R32 is a great entry level opportunity for someone to get into an R32. Whether you purchase to use as a daily driver or build as a race car this will definitely be the most affordable, running driving, clean title MK4 R32 on the market. Although this is the highest mileage Mk4 R32 we have seen but it still has lots of life left in it. The Carfax report shows very detailed Dealership service it’s entire life by the one owner it has had. The engine runs very well with full power and does not smoke and no Check engine light. The Ac blows cold, engine runs at proper temperature and fans cycle as they should. The car does have obvious cosmetic issues which can be seen in the pictures which include very rough leather on the front seats, damaged Rt front fender and other dents, dings and scratches on the rest of the car. There is also light rust on very front of both rockers behind the front wheels. The car runs and drives fine but the transmission does have lots of noise in most gears, more than likely needs a freshening with bearings. This car is being sold as-is and there is no warranty!

On the outside, this R32 actually looks really good for nearly 400,000 miles. I assume it has a lot to do with it being a single owner car but outside of some chipping around the fenders and a missing lower front grille, I am impressed. Once you open the doors, it is a different story. If you would of told me a mother black panther with a fresh litter of kittens was living inside it, I would of believed it. Those front seats are absolutely destroyed to the point of no return and even the rear seats show a heavy amount of wear. The rest of the interior doesn’t look too bad, but it’s easy to overlook all the peeling plastics that don’t show up too great in photos.

The price is $5,900 which in my opinion is extremely optimistic. I could maybe see that price if the drive train was sorted, but the sellers warning of transmission noise gives me pause. Probably this R32 will be snatched up for use track use or maybe even parted out for a swap into another Volkswagen chassis. Either way, it’s always interesting to see how cars hold up when miles are piled on.

– Andrew

2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed

I always get a bit of a chuckle at the keyboard warriors who love to denigrate manufacturers for not offering the full European catalog to U.S. customers. Really, you’d buy a RS6 Avant if it was offered here? You and what bank account, Mr. Sittinginhisrentedapartmentstealinginternetfromtheneighbors? Manufacturers need to live in the real world, and in the real world of the United States, while there is in fact a market who would purchase top-tier cars like the RS6 Avant, the reality is that the vocal majority of enthusiasts barking about how they’d snap them up like hotcakes would – at best – be hoping to buy a lightly used one downstream. At worst, these super wagons would only become affordable after ten years, at which point their complicated systems would render ownership prohibitively expensive for most. So, they kick tires, simultaneously ruing that such options aren’t available to them while secret thankful that they don’t have to put their money where their mouths are. We don’t have to look back far to find why this market departed the U.S., because when we were afforded the option to buy these cars, we found them unaffordable. Witness the very expensive W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant on eBay

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2008 Volkswagen Passat 3.6 4Motion Variant

On paper, the Passat W8 4Motion Variant like the one I wrote up early in August was the enthusiast with a family’s dream; an understated, all-wheel drive eight cylinder wagon with BBS wheels, smart styling and a not-outrageous asking price. I mean, it wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t RS7 money. You could even get a manual. But it was complicated, and ultimately, it was still a $40,000 Passat. The W8, while silky smooth, also was a bit underwhelming in the power department. Out of 4 liters, despite all the engine trickery, it produced only 270 horsepower – only 20 more than its contemporary 2.7 V6 twin-turbo sibling S4/Allroad/A6s could. In many ways, while the model that replaced it seemed a bit more tame in the headline department, it’s actually the one to get:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 Volkswagen Passat 3.6 4Motion Variant on eBay

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2004 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant

The main problem for the Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant is the plethora of other very capable all-wheel drive wagons that ran alongside it. Scratch that. The main problem for the Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant is that it’s just too damn complicated for its own good. On paper, an 8-cylinder, 270 horsepower all-wheel drive Passat just sounds damn cool. You could even get it with a 6-speed manual, if you could find one. If optioned correctly, the W8 had some pretty trick BBS-made “Madras” 2-piece wheels too, just like the ones we see here. But VAG designs from the early 2000s had a tendency for complicated engineering for complicated engineering’s sake, and it doesn’t get a whole lot more complicated than the timing chain routes on the back of VAG motors. That’s right, the back. Because, of course, if you put a timing chain in, you don’t need to ever service it, right? In the quest for greater performance and numbers, we stumbled through a looking glass of complexity that has rendered an entire generation of cars so massively over-engineered relative to their specific output that it simply makes no sense to even briefly contemplate their ownership:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant on eBay

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